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This newsletter brings our best wishes for the 2013-14 holiday season to all of you around the world.
 
In Australia the heat, coupled with the end-of-year celebrations and school holidays, sends many of us into intellectual hibernation, but it won’t be for long as 2014 is a short year for ACEAS, but a busy one.
 
We have had a busy year in 2013, with many meetings, especially in the first half of the year and some major international commitments. I enclose a montage of these activities with this newsletter, and I fear I have not captured quite all, but it will give you the flavour of the year: engagement, new working relationships formed and real catalysis of ideas. Still only 50% of ACEAS participants know other members of their working groups prior to their meetings. Janet Davies is interviewed in this newsletter: her group brought together people from a very wide range of disciplines, origins and stages of career, tackling a trans-disciplinary problem that has proved challenging for many decades.
 
Highlights of the year included the 2013 Grand ACEAS Workshop that brought together people from the freshwater-focussed Working Groups to Customs House in Brisbane, and a paper is currently in production thanks to Jenny Davis. For me, one of the major highlights was the International Joint Synthesis Centre meeting held at CESAB in October. This was several years in the planning and execution, and was very inspiring, with representatives of ten synthesis centres from north America to China gathering together. The event capitalised on connections formed or reinforced at INTECOL and my visit to the UK the previous month, which seemed to be over-run by Australians. Presaging the cricket results perhaps! I continued with my association with DataONE, with a special project with two colleagues looking at the role of working groups as a management tool.
 
In 2014 we are switching to help you capitalise on your work, and assist you develop your products, be they final reports, journal articles or data deposition and visualisation or indeed other things. This is the flavour of this next phase, with fewer meetings (only one so far planned, for the Ex-Situ Conservation of Australian Frogs but more in the pipeline). To a large extent this is the raison d’etre of ACEAS: ensuring that new knowledge and understanding does emerge from the work we help you do, and we have increased capacity to assist you do this. Kaito Lai, a software engineer, has been appointed to assist Guru who continues to juggle multiple demands across TERN, and I am planning for a little more help to be thrown in as well. Luke continues to be inventive, and liaise with the groups, and I am expecting some increased web-availability of the products in the near future. Belle Crofts and Jo Savill are ensuring fast and professional final report production, and Jo makes sure we shout to the world about your products. We welcome Mara Hayes who has stepped in to cover some of the ‘busy’ tasks. Another ‘new’ addition to the team is Shantala Brisbane, the new ‘ACEAS Executive Coordinator’; there is plenty of that to do as we juggle the heterogeneous nature of the workflows of the different groups and indeed our team.
 
In the background, the ACEAS Advisory Panel along with Richard Price are working with us on options for ACEAS into the future, both in the short (as in between June 2014 and 2015) and long term. This is not easy in the current economic climate, as it is not for the rest of TERN, but we are convinced of the value of an analysis and synthesis centre in the effective science and management of our natural capital, and must be positive. The support and good will of everyone who has been involved with ACEAS over the past four years is vital, and please do not be backward in coming forward and being our advocates.
 
Best wishes,
 
Alison Specht
 


Here is a snapshot of ACEAS achievements to date. With 43 analysis and synthesis working groups or workshops, and in excess of 600 participants, it’s been a busy few years! Not counting a few other things like...

ACEAS in numbers

 

ACEAS’s science communicator Jo Savill spoke with Dr Janet Davies from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Queensland, who is the principal investigator for the ACEAS working group Australian aerobiology to monitor environmental change.
 
The Aerobiology working group brought together students, scientists and clinicians spanning very diverse fields, from public health and immunology through to ecology, climate science and archaeology, most of whom had never worked together before.
 
The diversity of the group became their strength, according to the PI, Dr Janet Davies.
 
“We evolved into a team committed to collecting, collating, formatting and analysing the airborne pollen datasets from Australia and New Zealand. We built a valuable large data resource from which to probe, for the first time ever, different questions regarding pollen aerobiology in Australasia,” said Janet.
 
Without the assistance of ACEAS, gathering such a diverse group would not have been possible. “ACEAS provided us with the infrastructure and support so we could focus on the research,” said Janet. “It was almost a luxury for many of us to be able to focus on the work disengaged from our other responsibilities."

The Aerobiology group hard at work

The Aerobiology group hard at work. (L-R) Alison Jaggard (Macquarie University), Alfredo Huete (University of Technology Sydney), Faye Johnston (University of Tasmania) and Rewi Newnham (Victoria University, New Zealand).

 
The progress of the group has been impressive, and was discussed in an article published in The Conversation Pollen counting is nothing to be sneezed at and was also featured as an example of student integration in a recent TERN newsletter .
 
"Our progress so far has been greater than we envisaged initially”, said Janet. “We have worked hard and passionately as a team, well beyond what one could expect from busy academics with many other pressures and commitments.
 
"It is this individual dedication, team cohesion, positive environment created by ACEAS, as well as the exciting and fertile nature of our trans-disciplinary research that are key to our productivity."
 
The group hopes to continue working together as a collaborative research team closely engaged with ACEAS and TERN.
 
"Additionally, the outcomes from the Australian Aerobiology working group will be valuable for seeking further funding. We are aiming to establish the Australian Pollen Allergen Partnership as an ongoing standardized national pollen monitoring network. This network would describe and forecast local airborne levels of grass pollen with immediate utility for management of allergic asthma and hay fever, and as a platform from which to assess future changes in grass distributions and pollen aerobiology associated with global warming."
 
The Aerobiology working group received valuable assistance from the ACEAS team, who guided the group in formulating a coherent data acquisition and storage plan. Impressively, Luke Houghton, the ACEAS Research Assistant, helped convert pollen count data files stored since the early 1990s on 3¼ inch floppies by obsolete software into readable and then workable Excel data files. ACEAS and TERN’s Data Synthesis and Integration Coordinator, Siddeswara Guru, obtained valuable data from the Bureau of Meteorology that was needed for analyses and has provided support for preparation of analysis outcomes for an interactive web portal.
 
For more information about the research, visit the Aerobiology Working Group or contact Dr Janet Davies.

 
The Aerobiology working group

The Aerobiology working group. (L-R) Alfredo Huete (University of Technology, Sydney), Bradley Campbell (University of Queensland), Simon Haberle (Australian National University), David Bowman (University of Tasmania), Bircan Erbas (La Trobe University), Edward Newbigin (University of Melbourne), Janet Davies (University of Queensland), Paul Beggs (Macquarie University), Ian Godwin (University of Queensland), Don Vicendese (La Trobe University), Fay Johnston (University of Tasmania), Alison Jaggard (Macquarie University), Rewi Newnham (Victoria University, New Zealand), Danielle Medek (Australian National University). Dr Michel Thibaudon (Centre for Aerobiology Research) joined the group for the second meeting.

 

How do ACEAS working groups transform a broad range of data, from a variety of sources and formats into a comprehensive, usable product?
 
ACEAS participants undertake a variety of activities prior to, during, and after their working group meetings. A great example of this process is the ACEAS working group Avifaunal Disarray from a Single Despotic Species. This working group is making use of varied datasets, including bird and vegetation data, to develop and test models of Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala) assemblage and impacts, to inform the development of innovative management approaches.
 
The simplified data workflow has four steps:

 
1. Data Collection: gathering and measuring information on relevant variables from multiple locations.
 
2. Data Collation and Blending: assembling constituent datasets and combining these to form a single dataset.
 
3. Data Analysis and Synthesis: applying statistical and/or logical techniques to describe trends and relationships in the data to gain insights and form outcomes.
 
4. Data Deposition and Visualisation: final data product is stored in a centralized server with metadata and can be visualized via an online portal.
 

The Noisy Miner group is nearly finished their program, and keep an eye out for their visualisation on the ACEAS Portal early next year.
 
To find out more about this working group, see their Final Report.
 

Data workflow at ACEAS

 
Luke Houghton, ACEAS Research Assistant
 

2013 in pictures

Thanks to all the ‘providers’ who have helped make ACEAS happen, from Stan ‘the man’, to the more than 200 organisations that have given their staff time off to participate in ACEAS meetings and develop the products.

 

2013 Staff

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and an analysis and synthesis-filled New Year!

 

Contact: Alison Specht | ACEAS Facility Director | aceas.tern@uq.edu.au


 
TERN is supported by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and the Super Science Initiative.

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